Sunday, March 22, 2020

Robert Reich and the Covid - 19 crisis

I am so furious that I need to shout from the rooftops. But we're in lockdown, so I'm emailing you: No industry—not airlines, not hotel chains, not cruise ships—should be bailed out.
Congress is feverishly negotiating a sweeping economic stabilization bill that is expected to pass as early as tomorrow. The details of it are changing rapidly, but Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell are proposing hundreds of billions of dollars in bailouts for the airline industry and other industries that recklessly mismanaged their budgets by fattening the pockets of their CEOs. And now, these wealthy executives are begging Republicans for a taxpayer handout.
But guess how much the lowest-earning Americans would have gotten from McConnell's initial proposal? As little as $600.1 It's disgraceful.
Duane, breaking news indicates that House is drafting its own bill, that Democrats aren't ready to rubber-stamp the Republican corporate bailout proposal, and this legislation is not yet a done deal.2 But we have only a couple of days to pressure lawmakers to rise to the challenge of this unprecedented moment and make sure that our government bails out the American people, not corporations. That's why I'm writing to you now.
Think about all of the people across America who are constantly checking their local newspapers' websites to learn the latest about how the pandemic is affecting their communities; that's what I'm doing, and you might be, too. But what if, in addition to showing the much-needed news updates, the newspapers' websites showed ads pressuring Congress to give a lifeline to people, not corporations, in the economic stimulus bill? These ads will make lawmakers, who I can assure you care about what's said in their local papers, take serious notice.

As former secretary of the U.S. Department of Labor, I can tell you that there is no justification whatsoever to bailing out corporations right now. The airline industry certainly doesn't deserve a bailout: The biggest U.S. airlines spent 96% of their cash flow over the past decade to buy back shares of their own stock in order to boost executive bonuses and please wealthy investors. American Airlines alone repurchased more than $12.5 billion of its shares over the past 10 years.
But McConnell expects us to bail them out to the tune of $50 billion?
The airlines can stay in business by borrowing at rock-bottom rates, using their assets as collateral. Regular Americans living paycheck to paycheck don't have that same option.
 we need to come together right now to demand Congress put people first and pass an economic stimulus bill to support Americans in need, not provide bailouts for big businesses.

Just three weeks ago, Trump claimed that the coronavirus was "going to disappear. One day—it's like a miracle—it will disappear."3
And on that same day, Republican Senator Richard Burr warned wealthy constituents in a private meeting of the dire consequences that would arise from the crisis. He advised the well-connected group to prepare to alter their travel plans, warned that schools will probably close, and predicted that the military may be mobilized to combat the outbreak.4 When addressing the general public, however, he followed Trump's lead and minimized the severity of the crisis.
And then, Burr sold $1.5 million of his stock holdings, right before the market nosedived.
This is outrageous, and yet another example of Republicans serving their own interests and those of the wealthy over the needs of the American people. Unless we hold GOP lawmakers' feet to the fire, the economic stimulus bill won't help everyday Americans who urgently need help the most.
Seemingly overnight, so many people in every community in America have lost their jobs or are facing a severe cutback in hours due to the pandemic.
Congress has to do the right thing in this unprecedented moment: It must put people first, small businesses second, and big business last.
Thanks for all you do.
–Robert Reich
P.S. My new book, out this Tuesday, March 24, explores the power dynamics that left us with a system that puts corporations before people and leaves so many behind, especially in times of crises. Please order a copy today to understand how we got into this mess, and how we get out.
1. "Senate Republicans' cash assistance plan is far too limited, Vox, March 20, 2020
2. "No deal: McConnell delays initial coronavirus stimulus vote," The Hill, March 22, 2020
3. "A Complete List of Trump's Attempts to Play Down Coronavirus," The New York Times, March 15, 2020
4. "Weeks Before Virus Panic, Intelligence Chairman Privately Raised Alarm, Sold Stocks," NPR, March 19, 2020 

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